Thomas loves to know where his staff are originally from.
His mother told me about this interest. Then she hatched an idea: “maybe Thomas could track where his staff come from on a map of the world”.
I immediately wanted to get in on this. Like Thomas I share an interest in where our staff come from. So Thomas and I decided we’d turn this into a map seeking adventure that included a bus ride to downtown Seattle, lunch at a Mexican restaurant and a visit to the crown jewel of all map stores: Metsker Maps at Pike Place Market.
Thomas now has his map displayed at his home. Seven staff are from Gambia, six from Kenya, three each from Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and one each from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Haiti.
Alpha clients have had an active planting season at Oxbow Farm in Carnation. This spring Alpha clients and a volunteer began gardening at Oxbow Farm in a plot dedicated to Alpha clients. Gardening at Oxbow Farm is one of the many weekly activities offered through Alpha’s Community Projects Program.
Community integration for people with developmental disabilities has been central to Alpha’s mission since its founding. Over the years, our clients have enjoyed community day programs provided by other agencies. When the recession hit, many of Alpha’s clients lost their adult day health programs and other vocational and recreational programs due to budget cuts. In response, Alpha created the Community Projects Specialist position in 2011 to develop accessible group activities in the community for our clients and others. Craig Eidsmoe, our Community Projects Specialist, has created opportunities for client community integration, such as class and group activities, six days a week. One of these community outings includes regular visits to Oxbow Farm in Carnation.
Oxbow’s mission is to educate people on the importance of environmental stewardship and healthy food, to reconnect us to the land and our local sustainable food supply, and to inspire us to take action in our daily lives and in our communities. To Craig, this was the perfect fit for many of our clients who enjoy gardening. This spring Craig enlisted the help of volunteer Leslie Frazier to lend her expertise in gardening to our clients. Leslie is working with several Alpha clients to grow vegetables in five organic raised beds at Oxbow Farm. They meet every Tuesday to work on the beds from 12-2pm. To get started they dug up all of the beds because they were full of grass and other weeds; then they prepared the beds by adding compost. They planted starts like kale, lemon cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, sunflowers, and Indian popcorn. They also planted seeds for zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, carrots, and sugar snap peas. So far the plants are all coming along and the clients recently had their first harvest of “Dinosaur” Kale. Now that everything is growing everyone tends to the beds by weeding and watering. It’s a real pleasure to go through the process of planting and then harvesting your own produce!
Three and a half years ago, Alpha staff wanted to give clients a creative and fun activity to do each week, called Art Club, but where to have it?
Laura Hoag, a Direct Support Professional at Alpha, found the perfect place! She found Blu Café, a coffee shop willing to donate space in the back of the New Hope Church, in Shoreline. Blu Café is a warm and comfortable indoor coffee shop serving espresso, Italian sodas and most other fun coffee drinks. Along with the wonderful church volunteer baristas and free Wi-Fi it is a great place to hang out. Most often we enjoy the drink styling of Steve. Craig Eidsmoe talked with New Hope ministries; they were very supportive, and agreed to let us use a good chunk of their tables, at no cost, for Art club.
Art Club now had the perfect place to meet! Venus Gibbs and Nephtali Stackhouse, Program Supervisors for Alpha, started the club, Tuesday afternoons from 3:30- 4:30ish. We started out with 3-4 houses attending Art Club and helping collect art supplies. Now, 3 years later, we have 9 houses from Alpha attending and have extended the invitation to another agency, which has some ladies who attend when they can.
Art Club brings out the kid in everyone. Everyone is happy to take home their art projects and show them off. Favorite projects have been paper bag puppets, colored masks, and art coloring contests. Of course food-based crafts are always fun and are usually gone before they make it home. Sometimes it seems the staff have more fun than the clients, proudly showing off their projects as well. Typically after starting everyone on the week’s project, we take orders for their coffee, cocoa or Italian soda and Steve gets busy making the yummy treats. When clients finish their projects, have enjoyed their treat, and visited with everyone, we clean up and make a donation to the café for the drinks and go home until next week. Over the years we have enjoyed having parties for different holidays and birthdays at the café. In fact we just had a St. Patrick’s Day party, and Nate is having his birthday party at the café again this year. We all enjoy Art Club and are so happy to partner with New Hope to continue this fun club. We hope to be going strong for many more years to come.